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In the trenchesGeneral Dynamics completes USAF Space Fence radar array ground structure

Published 25 April 2016

General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies earlier this month completed the construction and walk-through of the 7,000 square-foot radar receive array structure which is part of the U.S. Air Force Space Fence radar system. With the array structure complete, the General Dynamics Space Fence team will dismantle the 700,000-pound steel structure and ship it to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, for reassembly and integration into the Space Fence system.

General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies earlier this month completed the construction and walk-through of the 7,000 square-foot radar receive array structure which is part of the U.S. Air Force Space Fence radar system. With the array structure complete, the General Dynamics Space Fence team will dismantle the 700,000-pound steel structure and ship it to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, for reassembly and integration into the Space Fence system. Officials from the Air Force Space Fence program office and representatives from General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the Space Fence program, participated in the walk-through. GD Mission Systems notes that the structure was built at General Dynamics’ Wortham, Texas, precision manufacturing facility.

“The ground-based receive array is an elegant merger of a huge physical structure built with the precision of a complex scientific or medical instrument,” said Mike DiBiase, a vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Mission Systems. “The SATCOM Technologies-built array has the sensitivity to locate, identify and track objects as small as a softball, hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface.”

The structure stands twelve meters tall and is about the size of two regulation NBA basketball courts placed side-by-side. GDMS says it is designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricane force winds, and extremes in temperature and humidity while maintaining a consistent surface flatness which varies less than one millimeter from one end of the structure to the other and from side-to-side. To prepare for the journey to Kwajalein, workers at the Wortham facility will map the structure in meticulous detail, down to the location of each individual bolt. The components will then be carefully wrapped and arranged so the reconstructed array will be identical to the structure completed in Wortham.

The Space Fence radar system is an advanced ground-based system which will help the Air Force detect, identify, and track more than 100,000 objects orbiting in space, helping to protect commercial and government satellites, the Hubble Telescope, International Space Station, and other space-based assets.

In 2014 Lockheed Martin awarded a contract for the Space Fence ground structures to General Dynamics. The ground structures include the receive array, cooling equipment, radomes, and other buildings. The primary Space Fence system, procured by the Air Force will be located 2,100 nautical miles from Honolulu, Hawaii at the Kwajalein Atoll. The system is expected to begin service in 2018.

General Dynamics Mission Systems is a business unit of General Dynamics.